ALTERNATE TITLE: WHY I WON’T BUY YOUR TABLETOP RPG.
With this treatise I’m going to piss off the both the political Right and the political Left. Yay me!
I look forward to your comments… AFTER you read the whole article.
FIRST THINGS FIRST
I want to make very clear, and I’m sure I’ll repeat this below, this article is about technical writing. It’s about the way one writes a technical manual or a tabletop RPG rulebook, not about how people talk to each other in casual conversation. In casual conversation I don’t think anyone in the world, short of someone who may be autistic, really talks all in proper English all of the time. You see, that’s the crux of the problem. For some reason, people seem to think casual conversation is the same as professional writing.
Newsflash: It’s not!
WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON?
Four years ago, when I thought this phenomenon was nothing more than a fad, I started looking into this strange trend of people who insisted on using ‘they/them/their’ as singular pronouns in violation of the pronoun-antecedent agreement rules of American English. (From this point forward I’m just going to type, English. Just know this to mean I am an American using American English.).
I knew about five year olds who talked like this, because I remember being corrected by my parents and teachers as a child. Just as we were corrected when we said, “He goes to me, ‘Hey, John, check this out.’” For you 40-somethings, remember when we said ‘goes’ instead of ‘says.’ There was even a Charles in Charge episode which covered that. 🤣
As someone who has always been a decent writer — (well, not grammatically, but I could write a good speech or narrative, if you didn’t care about proper English) — I was forced, yes, forced, to take English classes in the early 2000s in order to add technical writing to my professional duties and resume. Wow! Did I learn how embarrassingly ignorant I was with regard to English. Looking back, I don’t know how I ever graduated high school.
Even now, I really struggle with comma use, active versus passive voice, and not typing like I speak. In this blog, I don’t care about those issues as much, but in the technical writing portion of my job it’s a struggle. Luckily, at work I keep a couple of grammar guides next to me for assistance, and there are even higher level quality control editors than me.
If you want to sound like a five year old, just say the following:
- He don’t do that.
- It don’t go there.
- He played good.
- I feel wonderful.
- Drive safe.
- This went bad.
- Who did you give it to?
- Russia was invaded by who?
- He invited you and I.
If you use those phrases with your friends, that’s your business. Hell, in conversation I’m sure I’m guilty of one or more of the above faux pas as well. However, when you write a publication, such as a tech manual, that kind of writing is not a valid option.
Then there’s this bullshit presented in academia that ‘he/him’ is somehow gender biased. Uh, no. ‘He/him/his’ can either mean male or gender unknown. If you find this to be gender biased, you’re a mental midget and should go play in traffic. This is the grievance from people who see illusions (delusions!) everywhere and should not be taken seriously as human beings.
I suppose I should tangent for just a moment to get this out of the way. In case there is any doubt in your mind, I don’t not believe in, tolerate, or accept any of the postmodern, constructionist viewpoints. This includes gender as a construct, critical race theory, the 1619 project, or other such bullshit. Those ideas are great for brainstorming sessions and useful as thought experiments, nothing more. In the world of rational science and human beings those ideas are to be rejected out of hand. If you believe in this crap, please go abort yourself tout de suite.
While it probably was not the first time I ran across this lunacy, the first time I remember this ‘they as a singular’ nonsense really hit me was when my favorite tabletop role-playing game (TTRPG) transitioned from proper English to woke English. The first two books in the series were written properly, but in the third book the Line Developer decided virtue signaling was more important than proper English.
I say proper English because, at that time, the Chicago Manual of Style — (while not the only manual of style, it is the definitive manual of style for commercial publications) — had not embraced the ‘they/them’ phenomenon. The new version of the CMoS is due to be released soon (2021), and all indications are that it will, unfortunately, embrace the ‘they/them’ in the singular nonsense. (Because the apparent cultural pressure of 8% is stronger than rational thought.)
In four years of researching, discussing, and debating the use of ‘they/them/their’ as a singular I have come to the conclusion that people are ignorant. Not stupid; ignorant. Remember, ignorance can be cured but you can’t fix stupid.
I base this conclusion on multiple factors.
- Universities, where this crap initially took hold, are no longer places of learning, questioning, discussion and debate, but of indoctrination. This isn’t hyperbolic. All you have to do is look into what’s going on in the broader university system.
- Activism (through virtue signaling) is now more sacred than truth. Truth is the new hate speech.
- The truly ignorant (or lazy) can’t be bothered with being correct.
This is most easily explained through the various argument people try to use.
“They/them has been used since the 14th Century.”
The 14th century argument is more of a talking point than actual truth. Did people talk like that? Yes. Was it considered correct? Well, unless you were a monk, the rules of the English language weren’t really defined all that well back then. Each village had its own way of speaking and people were more concerned with survival than going to an English class. You can’t compare the times of the 14th century to that of the 21st century.
If we’re going to cite the 14th century, let’s also remember there were no lowercase letters, no spacing between words or even sentences, and double negative were commonplace (especially in legal arguments). Should we also remove the full stop (period) and spacing rules?
“Shakespeare used ‘they/them’ language.”
Shakespeare is considered (by some to be) a very good storyteller for his day, but there are also two other truths:
- He spoke to the commoners and used commoner vernacular. We’d call this casual or conversational speech today.
- His grammar (even for the day) was atrocious. The debate whether his use of grammar and syntax was intentional, because of his target audience, or just how he spoke is for people who care about Shakespeare more than me.
“‘He/him’ as gender neutral was forced on language in the mid-18th century.”
Which means that no one alive today, going back multiple generations, has ever lived in a time where ‘he/him’ was offensive or incorrect. Unless you were there when it happened, or maybe I’ll argue first generation after the change, you are completely unaffected by this change. This argument has no place outside of the delusions of the weak minded who overreach for a potential valid argument.
- Mankind is not an offensive word.
- Dungeon Master is not an offensive term.
- Foreman or mailman are not offensive terms.
If you are offended by it, you’re a weak-willed mental midget who should take medicine and receive therapy. Not someone who should have any influence on the use of the English language. Offense was not given, it was taken. Taking things is theft. You’re a thief and a delusional retard at the same time. Good job.
“Merriam-Webster and the various manuals of style have changed.”
Yes, this is mostly true. Back in 2018 and 2019 most of them changed due to pressure from the woke minority. An 8% minority, by the way! This was a case of virtual signaling from avowed far-leftists who run these organizations, as well as pressure from academics. And let’s be fair (yes, fair!) most of these academics are far left pseudo-elitists who, by virtue of never leaving their own echo chambers or never holding real jobs, think they are smarter than you and me.
Anyone who grew up in (or before) the 1980’s knows the story of the word, ain’t. How long until that word was finally approved as a real word in Merriam-Webster?
Remember, only 8% of people identify as holding the ideology related to what we call social justice warriors (SJW). And, according to actual census statistics, only 4.1% of all people identify as LGBTQ+, of which gay and lesbian hold the vast majority. Intersex is only 0.03%.
To be very, very clear: Each and every person, whether normal, transgender, intersex, or whatever, deserves the same rights as you and me, but they don’t get to change the language or obtain special rights. Biological (genetic) defects and bio-chemical imbalances do not deserve unique and special rights or considerations.
I will defend the right of any LGBTQ+ person to live, free from harm and overt discrimination (e.g. the ability to get a job or a house loan), as long as that person is not a pedophile. However, I am not willing to change language or create (or accept the creation of) a new, special class for them. Additionally, mockery is not hate. Everyone is mocked in life — for looks, actions, ideas, status, and etc. No, you don’t get to be free from jokes and you don’t get to change the language because of your po’ widdle fee-fees.
Finally, the one true official manual of style (the Chicago Manual of Style) won’t/didn’t change until 2021. Anytime ‘they/them’ in the singular is used before that time is, by definition, improper use — nothing more than activism and virtue signaling.
“This is how people talk.”
How one talks in a familiar or casual atmosphere is not the same as how a technical manual, or even a novel, is written. How I write this blog is not how I write my operations manuals. I’m, in a sense, speaking to you here more than I am writing a report. I’m talking to you through the written word as if I am speaking to you personally. This is NOT how a technical manual is written.
My experiences in living and travelling around the world have led me to these simple conclusions.
From the modern left wing ‘they/them’ is a virtual signal. These leftist wingnuts somehow feel that ‘he,’ ‘mankind,’ and ‘dungeon master’ are ~ist-o-phobic. As such, their opinions and thoughts on the matter are instantly invalid, and their ideas should be thrown out before any more oxygen and brain power is wasted on them.
From the right wing, I hate to say it this way, but many of them are ignorant. I have talked to so many right wingers who tell me, “I worry about fixing my cars, growing food in my garden, and watching football with my friends. I don’t care how I speak.” Of course, I must once again repeat, I also don’t care how you speak to your friends. However, when you write a report, a resume, or a technical manual you simply don’t get to write like an ignorant hillbilly.
An actual response from a current employee, “I didn’t do good in English.” 🤦♂️ Neither did I! Well, I didn’t back in grade school, anyway, but when it’s part of your job you’d best learn… quickly. I was required to improve my English in order to receive the promotions and (later on) the jobs I desired. This is where ignorance, instead of being cured through education, turns into pure laziness.
This same employee told me, “I’m happy for the ‘they/them’ change, now people can stop correcting me when I say it.” Instead of correcting himself, he’s relieved that he’s allowed to talk like a five year old.
As you lean toward the middle of the modern Left/Right political spectrum, you find the squeaky wheel gets the grease. Most of them don’t see a problem with using ‘he’ as gender neutral, and they don’t understand — (maybe the word ‘care’ is better than ‘understand’) — why ‘manhole cover’ is now considered offensive by some. However, since those weirdos are screaming the loudest these middle-of-the-road folks simply go along with it. “Oh, it’s changed? People are offended by it? Sure, I guess.”
If you don’t recognize what’s wrong in the following bullets, hire an editor!
- He don’t do that.
- It don’t go there.
- He played good.
- I feel wonderful.
- Drive safe.
- This went bad.
- Who did you give it to?
- Russia was invaded by who?
- He invited you and I.
“People write like they speak.”
This is sometimes followed up with, “self-publishing removes the need for an editor,” or “Now I’m allowed to communicate more naturally.”
This is just another way of saying one or more of the following:
- “Language changes over time.”
- “English is so screwed up there aren’t any actual rules.”
- “I’m too lazy to write properly, so I’ll use a bullshit excuse to rationalize my laziness.”
The quality of most self-published books is crap. Game manuals, reference books, and technical manuals aren’t to be written like blogs or journals, they are to follow known standards. English has rules. How you talk to your friends is one thing, how you write a book must follow standards because of it’s much greater reach.
Put a person from northern Minnesota next to a Cajun from Louisiana, an urbanite from Los Angeles, and a rural country Tennessean and all four of them will seem like they are speaking different languages. However, they can all read a novel — (well, maybe not the person from Tennessee 🤣 I kid! I kid!) — because there are unified standards of English used to write the novel.
“English is a bastard language that changes all of the time.”
All languages are bastard languages. Latin is no longer spoken, but there are many languages derived from it. Again, it took centuries for the language to disappear, the same with old English. Yes, one day in the future, how we talk today will disappear (well, maybe not due to the Internet, but it will fade and change). However, you don’t get to jam new, nonsensical grammar down my throat because some weirdo’s fee-fees were presumed to be hurt.
Yes, language changes. Every year new words are added to our lexicon. This is normal and natural. Also, good luck understanding anyone or any writing from 14th century England. However, language changes over the course of decades, not overnight. Also, change must have some purpose. The most often cited purpose for ‘they/them’ is gender neutrality. Even if your ignorance doesn’t allow you to accept ‘he/him’ as gender neutral, there are plenty of other ways of being gender neutral. I cite examples below.
“With the Internet language changes faster.”
I wholeheartedly disagree with this. In fact, with near universal access to the Internet, it is much easier to solidify the use of language. If we all have access to it, and we all use the same official source material, there’s no excuse for unnecessary changes, differences, and deviations.
“Why can’t you just have good manners and use a person’s preferred pronouns?”
Because people don’t get to prefer pronouns. Pronouns have a standardized use in the English language, have the good manners to use them. I don’t care if you are normal, transgender, intersex, or whatever. If you present yourself as a woman, I’ll call you ‘she.’ If you present yourself as a man (full beard, Adam’s apple, deep voice, etc), I’ll call you ‘he.’ I couldn’t care less what you want to be called. The language has already determined what you are called — your feelings on this matter are irrelevant.
Are you still not convinced the change is stupid and not needed? Fine, I will show you some examples of how to write in a gender neutral format with proper pronoun-antecedent agreement, and without the need for baby-talk woke language.
As you read these examples, remember this article specifically targets how one writes in a technical manual — (e.g. the rulebook for a game) — not how people use local vernacular to talk to each other. Also, the intent is to change the original (example) writer’s sentence as little as possible.
These are actual sentences and examples I received from people. They were intended to be ‘gotchya’ sentences, where ‘they/them’ is supposed to be the only or clearest option. These people were wrong.
“Somebody left their umbrella in the office. Could you please let them know where they can get it?”
“Somebody left an umbrella in the office. Could you please let everyone know where it is.”
Stop overusing pronouns. Apparently, the overuse of pronouns has become more acceptable as well. I can’t tell you how many times I hear people say ‘their’ when the correct word is ‘the.’
“Somebody left his umbrella in the office. Could you please let him know where he can get it?”
“Somebody left his or her umbrella in the office. Could you please let him or her know where they can get it?”
Even though some indefinite pronouns have plural meanings, treat them as grammatically singular.
INDEFINITE PRONOUNS (SINGULAR) Indefinite pronouns refer to nonspecific persons or things. Any, each, everyone, none, someone, anybody, either, everything, no one, something, anyone, everybody, and neither.
- Everyone in my English class does their homework.
- Everyone in my English class does his or her homework.
- All of the students in my English class do their homework.
“The patient should be told at the outset how much they will be required to pay.”
‘The patient’ is singular, thus pronoun-antecedent agreement would indicate the use of ‘their’ is wrong.
“Patients should be told at the outset how much they will be required to pay.”
Since it’s a generalized statement, and because the office has more than one patient, the use of patients in the plural context is correct.
In the case of one specific (but anonymous) patient:
“The patient should be told at the outset how much he will be required to pay.”
“The patient should be told at the outset how much he or she will be required to pay.”
“Payment should be discussed with the patient at the outset.”
- Oh, look! No pronoun is even needed.
“A student is very fortunate if they have a job waiting for them after graduation.”
“Students are very fortunate if they have a job waiting for them after graduation.”
“Students are very fortunate if they have jobs waiting for them after graduation.”
Again, this is a generalized statement; use the plural form.
In the case of one specific (but anonymous) student:
- “The student is very fortunate if he has a job waiting for him after graduation.”
- “The student is very fortunate if he or she has a job waiting for him or her after graduation.”
This is actually an example from the University of Hawaii’s English department, so it’s not just me who says ‘they’ is wrong.
A coroner speaking to a detective about a possible attacker, “We have determined their blade to be about seven inches long.”
The example giver’s rationale was that he didn’t want to potentially disrupt the investigation by assuming the killer’s gender.
“We have determined the blade to be about seven inches long.”
Pronoun use isn’t even appropriate in this sentence. Again, ‘the’ is a better word than ‘their.’
“The blade was about seven inches long.”
Technical manuals (rulebooks and reports) should get to the point.
Let me repeat: In this article, I specifically target how one writes in a technical manual — (e.g. the rulebook for a game) — not how people use local vernacular to talk to each other.
If you use ‘they/them’ in the singular, you are either ignorant or you are virtue signaling. It is wholly unneeded and useless as a concept. This nonsense is only ‘demanded’ by the ignorant, or people who don’t have any real problems in life so they have to invent some. Ignorance can be cured through education, I know I needed it — (and still need it, in the case of commas); virtue signalers are to be ignored like children in time-out.
Whether it’s mandated by my job, required at a convention, or expected in a neighbor’s domicile, I will never use ‘they’ in the singular. Don’t like it? Well, I have 250-ish years of English on my side. You only have your pathetic feelings. While your friends and family probably care about your feelings, and they should, in the real world (outside of friends and family) no one cares about your feelings.
And don’t get me started on “neopronouns.” Go fuck yourself, I will never use them.
ENTITIES & ORGANIZATIONS
I didn’t type about it above, but I also want to point out that entities, such as Ford Motor Company, use the pronoun ‘it’ not ‘they.’
- “Ford’s stock price went down today after it revealed…”
- “Dell released its new product today.”
- “Amazon is opening its fourth warehouse in…”
- “The NFL said its new policy on…”
- “In its article, Newsweek wrote…”
- Yeah, Tim Pool, this is for you!
- “France invaded its neighbor.”
- On the other hand, “The French invaded their neighbor.”
- Notice the difference?